Affordable Access

Publisher Website

Reducing single-use plastic shopping bags in the USA.

  • Wagner, Travis P1
  • 1 Department of Environmental Science & Policy, University of Southern Maine, 106 Bailey Hall, Gorham, ME 04038 USA. Electronic address: [email protected]
Published Article
Waste management (New York, N.Y.)
Publication Date
Sep 18, 2017
DOI: 10.1016/j.wasman.2017.09.003
PMID: 28935376


In the USA, local governments have the primary responsibility to manage MSW. However, local governments lack the authority to explicitly shift costs or responsibility back onto the producer for specific problem wastes. A particularly problematic waste for local governments is the single-use plastic bag. In 2014, in the USA, 103.465 billion single-use plastic shopping bags were consumed. Because of their extremely low recyclability rate, plastic bags remain a significant source of land-based litter and marine debris and impair stormwater management systems. They also reduce the effectiveness of automated recycling systems. In response, local governments increasingly have adopted a variety of measures specifically intended to reduce the store-level consumption of single-use shopping bags in 5 major categories: bans, imposition of fees and taxes, establishing minimum product design of bags, requiring consumer education, and mandating retailer take-back programs. As of September 2017, there were 271 local governments in the USA with plastic bag ordinances covering 9.7% of the nation's population. The majority (95%) of the ordinances is a ban on single-use plastic bags; 56.9% of these bans also include a mandatory fee on paper and/or reusable bags. For the fee-based ordinances, the mode is $0.10 per bag; every tax/fee ordinance allows retailers to retain some or all the collected fee. As local governments continue to increase their actions on plastic bags, 11 states have enacted laws to prohibit local governments from regulating single-use plastic bags. Because of the success with single-use bags, local governments are also enacting similar ordinances on single-use expanded polystyrene consumer products and other single-use plastic products.

Report this publication


Seen <100 times